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Special Education

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

For a child to receive special education, they need an individualized education program (IEP). The process begins the first time a child is evaluated. An IEP is a written legal document that plans and maps a child’s individual special education instruction, support, and services a child will have to make progress in school. Each program is written to address a child’s individual needs.

IEP teams include a group of professionals from the school and the parent. Together the team will use the results of a child’s evaluation testing to design a plan.

IEPs are part of public education and are given to children in public schools and charter schools. Private schools do not offer IEPs and service plans for special needs children in private schools vary by organization. There are no IEPs in college. Those in college can receive accommodations through college disability services.

There are many benefits of an IEP. The process begins with a full evaluation of a child’s strengths and weaknesses. The results of these evaluations will allow the caregiver and the school to work together to create a program that tailors to the child’s specific needs. With an IEP, your child will receive individualized instruction to help improve their skills. They may also receive accommodations to help them perform better such as changes in environment or assistive technology.

And IEP grants you and your child certain legal protections. It allows you to be directly involved in decisions that impact your child’s education and learning goals as well as school discipline. Schools are required to have IEP meetings to review, revise, and update your child’s IEP on a regular basis.

504 Plans

A 504 plan is a blueprint for how the school will provide supports and remove barriers for a student with a disability, so the student has equal access to the general education curriculum.

Some kids with learning and attention issues don’t need special education or individualized instruction. But they might still need supports or services at school. Depending on their challenges, they may be able to get that help through a 504 plan. 504 plans are designed to help kids with disabilities learn alongside their peers. They do this by removing barriers to learning.

504 plans are formal plans that schools develop to give kids with disabilities the supports they need. These plans prevent discrimination and protect the rights of kids with disabilities in school. They’re covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law. They are not part of special education and do not provide individualized instruction.

504 plans work by offering accommodations such as allowing headphones or dimming the lights thus changing the environment, allowing extended time on tests, or extra breaks outside of the classroom. Schools typically create written plans, but there are no set plans as to what that should look like. The only thing schools are required to do are to put their policies in writing.

The Process of getting a 504 plan is much simpler and straight forward and the IEP but varies by district. A child does not need to qualify for special education to receive a 504 plan. Schools create plans based on a variety of factors including medical diagnoses, conversations with caregivers, conversations with doctors and/or therapists, and the student’s performance history.

504 plans are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Students have the right to a free appropriate public education and are entitled to the same education their peers receive. Unlike the IEP, parents do not have the right to sit in on meetings regarding the 504 process though they do have the right to be notified if a child is evaluated or an issue is identified. It is important to be proactive in the process of creating a 504 plan that is right for your child.